KANSAS CITY - If Friday's 9-8 victory in 14 innings at Kauffman Stadium is any indication of the second half to come for the White Sox, then their ardent fan base might not be able to make it through the next 76 games.
On this particular night, running into Saturday morning, they can go to bed with a smile on their collective faces after the White Sox (48-38) won for the sixth time in seven games by outlasting the Royals (37-48) during this 5-hour, 23-minute marathon.
"That was wonderful," said a smiling but worn out White Sox manager Robin Ventura, with a hint of sarcasm. "I'm glad we had an All-Star break."
"It didn't feel like we had much of a break after that one," said second baseman Gordon Beckham, who finished 1-for-5 and scored the decisive run. "But it was a big win."
Dylan Axelrod (1-2) earned the victory by throwing two hitless innings. Much like Royals losing pitcher Everett Teaford (1-3), Axelrod was in this game for the duration once he stepped onto the mound in the 13th.
Each team used nine pitchers, marking the first time the White Sox have ever used nine-plus pitchers in a game twice in the same season (June 2 vs. the Mariners). All eight of the White Sox rookie pitchers saw action, with starter Jose Quintana, setup man Nate Jones and closer Addison Reed the only ones to allow runs.
"There were so many times I thought that game was over," Beckham said. "In my mind, you could see situations playing out that were not good for us, and you see it being over and it just kept going. [The rookies] came up big definitely. To keep those guys, the way they're swinging the bats, at bay, is pretty solid."
Kevin Youkilis came up with the go-ahead RBI in the 14th, following Teaford's walk to Beckham and Alejandro De Aza's single to left that marked his only hit in six at-bats. Youkilis culminated a 14-pitch battle with a sacrifice fly to center, extending his consecutive games streak with at least one RBI to eight.
With five game-winning RBIs over 14 games with the White Sox, Youkilis clearly is the right man to have in that game-deciding situation.
"At some point, you figure he's battling enough that he's going to be able to win that," Ventura said. "He's done it before and you expect it. First and third, he's the guy you want up there."
The White Sox pushed across one in the 12th on Beckham's double off Tim Collins, but the Royals scored in the bottom half off of Reed. The Royals had a chance to win in the 11th, when Alex Gordon started the frame with a broken-bat single to left off of Jhan Marinez, got sacrificed to second by Alcides Escobar and moved to third following walks to Eric Hosmer and Jarrod Dyson.
But Yuniesky Betancourt swung at the first pitch from a rookie with the bases loaded and popped up to short. Hector Santiago retired Mike Moustakas on a slow roller up the middle to Alexei Ramirez.
This game went into extra innings because of one bad pitch from Jones in the eighth and Royals reliever Jonathan Broxton's inability to close out the ninth. Jones' 1-2 mistake on a 98-mph fastball resulted in Escobar's go-ahead two-run triple, but Youkilis' single and walks issued to Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko by Broxton set up the game-tying single from A.J. Pierzynski (4-for-7).
Pierzynski could have sent the White Sox home early, but right fielder Jeff Francoeur nailed pinch-runner Orlando Hudson at the plate. A great tag by catcher Salvador Perez kept the game even.
It stayed that way until Youkilis and Axelrod brought this second-half opener covering parts of two days to a close.
"Weird thoughts started entering my mind, like it might happen," said Axelrod of starting to think about possibly pitching in the seventh. "Once Hector [Santiago] went in, I asked [White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper], 'Should I go down there? You think you guys are going to need me?'
"He said, 'Yeah. Go get your spikes and head down after the next half [inning].' So I did that. It's just how the game went."
Trailing by a 5-3 margin in the fifth on a night when Jose Quintana didn't have his best stuff, Dayan Viciedo once again delivered a big go-ahead shot. Dunn started the rally off of Bruce Chen with a single, and Pierzynski extended the rally two outs later with another single.
Viciedo followed with a blast on a 1-0 fastball that carried out into the left-center field stands for his 15th homer of the season. Viciedo pumped his fist as he rounded first and saw the ball land, while Pierzynski slapped his hands together with force as he rounded third.
"That's absolutely my fault. I've got to take responsibility for that," Royals manager Ned Yost said of leaving in Chen to face Viciedo. "Sometimes you manage with your heart more than you do your head where you're trying to get through the fifth inning so he can quality for the win."
Quintana allowed five runs on eight hits over five innings, but was long gone after 108 pitches by the time this game was complete. Cleveland and Detroit both won on Friday, putting pressure on the White Sox as the American League Central leaders now being chased.
They answered the challenge on this night, although it took them a while to get there.